Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Open Carry

It is perfectly legal to openly carry a handgun in 11 states, including Virginia.

Recent incidents in Virginia point up the fact that most people including most law enforcement don't know this. A recent law passed in Virginia prevents local jurisdictions from super ceding state law on the ownership and use of most firearms.

That said, its a fair question to ask; why carry a handgun openly in public places, especially in crowded suburban communities? Does the practice do more harm to gun owners than its worth?

1. The rationale that most open carrying folks will provide is that one needs to exercise a right or risk losing the right.

Some fear that if more folks exercise this right, a backlash will occur since many suburbanites are intimidated when they see someone with a gun.

Here is my take on this perception.

When I am in a restaurant or any public place and I see a civilian (non uniformed) individual carrying a handgun I make a logical assumption that they are a security guard of some type and I assume they are just doing their business without potential harm to anyone.

Generally, it is rare to see a non uniformed person in suburban Virginia openly carry. You will get noticed. But most folks tend to mind their own business, unless it becomes obvious to them that the person openly carrying seems to be acting less than civily.

On the other hand, Northern Virginia, is host to many left wing, pacifistic types, that cringe whenever they see a weapon of any sort. So its not surprising that openly carried handguns would generate a few calls to the local police in Northern Virginia.

Personally, I have no need to openly carry - but its good to know that if the situation required I could.

For example; If you have a carry permit in Virginia you can't carry a concealed weapon if you go into a restaurant that serves liquor. Your option is to simply leave the gun home or in the car etc. But if you are carrying for the obvious reason of self defense, you will find yourself less able to protect yourself. So the law inhibits your inherent right to self defense simply because you are visiting a place that sells liquor.

The law in question is being challenged but currently what would you do if you needed to visit the restaurant etc, for a business reason or some other important matter.

You could cave to political correctness and simply leave the gun home, or in the car. Odds are nothing would happen to make you regret that decision. But the avoidance of the issue by opting out of self-defense does leave you vulnerable. I would hate to be the one whose loved one was killed or injured while in such an establishment and to know I could have prevented it, except I was too timid to deal with the open carry issue.

2. As far as a backlash against citizens who exercise their right to openly carry, long as the record reflects lawful behavior by such citizens, I can see no negative impact. It is unlikely that open carry will become a common occurrence, only because most folks don't feel the need.

The practice if done lawfully may encourage greater awareness by the general population of their own right to protect themselves and perhaps even a greater sense of security that their are individuals around who are willing to assert their ability to protect themselves.

But realistically, in most suburban environments, I don't see folks cheering the open carry mind set, rather I see people cautiously staying on the sidelines of the issue unless something significant happens to make them lean pro or con.

I have some sympathy for local police who culturally are challenged to not feel alarmed by the open carry practice. Certainly, they need to be cautious. Potentially, a criminal can carry openly and feel not concerned because they won't be challenged in certain jurisdictions.

But this too is unlikely. Most criminals do not want to draw attention to themselves. Their gun will be concealed and illegally obtained.

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